Let me start by expressing our full support for UNHCR’s work and its important mandate. The report by the High Commissioner and his statement this afternoon bear proof that UNHCR under the leadership of High Commissioner Guterres, in spite of multiple challenges, is clearly up to the task mandated to it by this Assembly.
Norway particularly appreciates the High Commissioner’s active role in promoting and defending humanitarian principles and humanitarian space. Now more than ever do we need strong voices both inside and outside the UN in defence of people in distress and need.
Let me also underline that UNHCR’s most valuable asset is clearly its own staff. These are people serving in remote and hostile areas – often putting their own life at risk at the service of displaced populations. Thus UNHCR’s staff has our deepest respect and admiration - and we encourage them to keep up their good work.
UNHCR staff has also over the last year been victims of violence and attacks. We deplore in the strongest terms all attacks on humanitarian personnel and call on governments to bring the perpetuators of such acts to justice.
Although first and foremost a refugee agency,UNHCR’s expanded role and commitment to internally displaced persons is fundamental.
As regards the broader inter-agency efforts, including the cluster approach, we encourage UNHCR to continue its cooperation with OCHA and the agencies involved. We acknowledge that the new way of doing business in some instances has led to increased transaction costs. As we consolidate humanitarian reform we therefore need to refine and adjust working methods to exploit the full potential of the new modalities. We trust in UNHCR’s active involvement in this undertaking.
Allow me in this regard also to recall the international conference on the Guiding Principles on IDPs held in Oslo last month. The conference brought together government representatives, UN-agencies and civil society in highlighting and promoting consensus around the Guiding Principles at the political level. Now the aim is continued incorporation of the Principles into national, regional and global legal frameworks along with enhanced implementation. These are key endeavours to afford protection to the world’s over 26 million IDPs - of whom about 14 millions are under the care of UNHCR.
We need the UN to deliver as one for better prevention and preparedness – and for better protection and assistance. UNHCR’s active and constructive participation in the UN-reform process is vital, at all levels and particularly in the field. Not least will a proper handling of protracted situations require that the UN deliver more collectively - and thereby becomes more than the sum of its parts. Finally cross-cutting issues, such as gender, will also greatly benefit from active cooperation and the best possible use of system-wide expertise and capacity.
Norway strongly supports UNHCR’s efforts related to Afghanistan. The protection challenges both within and outside Afghanistan remain. We are fully committed to strengthening the UN’s presence in Afghanistan, including in the humanitarian field. At the same time political solutions must be found. And it is crucial that humanitarian space is respected and protected.
On the budget and finance side, we are pleased with the solid financial management and the fact that UNHCR in recent years has been fully financed. We acknowledge, however, the existing gap between needs budgeted for and actual needs of the beneficiaries. Against this backdrop we support the “General Needs Assessment”, as a tool for identifying overall needs and setting priorities.
Still, allow me in this regard to voice our concern over the possible implications of the global financial crises for agencies like UNHCR. At a time when global needs for both refugees and IDPs are on the rise, we can ill afford to see the overall resource-base shrinking. Concerted and sustained efforts by the donor community is therefore required to mitigate possible negative effects of the ongoing crises.
This fall the Norwegian Government presented a new humanitarian strategy. The document reaffirms Norway as a committed humanitarian partner and an advocate of a “global humanitarian system for all”. This includes even closer interaction and cooperation with a broad range of member states and continued support for the UN and humanitarian reform. A robust, international humanitarian system with broad based support is a prerequisite for a proper handling of today’s humanitarian challenges.
To end where I started, Norway has been a staunch supporter of UNHCR and its important mission, and we will remain so in the future.
I thank you Mr. Chairman,